18. Albert Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the universe
Renouncing his German citizenship in 1896, enduring statelessness for more than five years, Albert Einstein eventually settled in Switzerland where he earned his PhD in 1905. In the same year, now known as his “miracle year”, the acclaimed scientist published four groundbreaking papers which collectively revolutionized academic understandings on space, time, mass, and energy. Developing his landmark special theory of relativity whilst working at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern, Einstein subsequently adapted his discovery into a general theory of relativity which today stands as one of the two pillars of modern physics.
Awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 in recognition of “his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”, Einstein is perhaps best known today for his mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc2. Fleeing Europe following the rise of Hitler due to his Jewish heritage, Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt on the eve of the Second World War to encourage the development of nuclear technology. However, following its use in 1945, Einstein denounced the weaponry and campaigned for disarmament during the 1950s. Publishing more than three hundred scientific papers, becoming synonymous with genius in the decades since his death, one can only imagine the contributions a mind like Einstein’s could make to modern science.